Oakland’s vision for public safety and violence prevention is comprehensive and holistic. Ryan has worked for years to make that vision a reality, and is uniquely qualified to help navigate the legal challenges that lie ahead.

Reimagining and improving public safety in Oakland is ongoing, complex work. In 2021, our Reimagining Public Safety Task Force recommended ways for Oakland to increase community safety, including investing in programs to address the root causes of crime, developing a community response system for non-violent 911 calls, and relying on civilian professionals to investigate police-misconduct. That same year, our City Council prioritized many of the recommendations, such as investing in the Mobile Assistance Community Responders of Oakland program (MACRO), bolstering the Department of Violence Prevention in its mission to interrupt violence, moving police-misconduct investigations to the Community Police Review Agency (CPRA), and supporting our independent Office of the Inspector General in its mandate to promote best policing-practices at OPD. Our Council also demanded that OPD work to recruit new officers from underrepresented backgrounds, including more local officers and more female officers. 

Ryan wholeheartedly agrees with your other city leaders that policing in Oakland must be part of a larger public safety and violence prevention system. To maximize public trust and safety, police departments cannot be stand-alone institutions. Community oversight is an excellent start. But the ultimate goal is to fully weave OPD into the larger cultural fabric of Oakland, to make it an integral part of the community it serves with deeply shared values. And Ryan wholeheartedly believes that a lack of diversity in policing - and the underrepresentation of women in particular - undermines public safety. Ryan believes the research is clear, and he’s seen it with his own eyes. Attracting and retaining a diverse police force is crucial.

As we continue to achieve this vision, we will reduce crime, attract and retain diverse officers, and identify and deal with problem officers. We will also make sure our officers can focus on preventing and investigating crimes, rather than on work that’s best suited for our civilian professionals. The stakes for Oakland couldn’t be higher, and there will always be legal pitfalls at the federal, state and local levels that we must successfully navigate as we go.

The role of the City Attorney’s office is critical. For example, we have to find ways to make our police force more diverse and remove micro-barriers in the application and onboarding processes, but without running afoul of California's onerous Prop 209 restrictions. For the CPRA to staff up (which in turn will put the officers currently in Internal Affairs back on the street) and produce strong investigative reports, the agency will need expert legal advice and support. And when the collective bargaining agreement (aka the “MOU”) for the police union (OPOA) is up for renegotiation in 2026, the city’s administration and Council will need legal support as they look to revise and negotiate various provisions related to staffing, civilianizing OPD functions, and disciplinary-appeals processes.

As the former head of the office’s Labor and Employment unit and the current Chief Assistant City Attorney, Ryan has the hands-on experience to work effectively with our City leaders, our police-oversight professionals, our violence-intervention professionals, and our sworn professionals - in partnership with community and community leaders - to make sure Oakland’s vision for comprehensive public safety continues to become a reality. Ryan’s experience includes:

  • Re-establishing a team to advise on labor, employment and police-accountability. After the team was decimated by budget cuts during the Great Recession, Ryan recruited skilled and committed attorneys and rebuilt it. He also worked to overhaul protocols for police-misconduct investigations and discipline. When court-appointed investigators examined the City’s police-misconduct investigation and discipline process for the 5-year period preceding Ryan’s arrival, they found serious deficiencies. When the very same investigators issued a follow-up report, covering Ryan’s first two years on the job, they found significant improvements, giving a lot of the credit to Ryan and his newly-formed team. But there is more work to be done.
  • Working as a primary legal advisor to create, strengthen and support the Police Commission, Community Police Review Agency (CPRA), and Office of Inspector General. In 2016 and 2017, Ryan was instrumental in drafting and finalizing Measure LL, to create the Police Commission and CPRA. And over the following several years, he worked to help get both institutions off the ground. In 2020, Ryan stepped up again to help draft Measure S1, to strengthen the Police Commission and to create an Office of Inspector General. Ryan remains committed to helping Oakland establish strong and effective community oversight of the police department.
  • Overturning an erroneous interpretation of the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act (POBRA). Ryan and his team, in partnership with CPRA, boldly challenged an appellate court decision (Santa Ana Police Officers Assn. v. City of Santa Ana (2017) 13 Cal.App.5th 317) that they believed misinterpreted California law. Lawyers for police officers who were under investigation were citing the case to demand that CPRA divulge confidential evidence to officers before CPRA even had a chance to interrogate the officers. In other words, CPRA was being forced to show all its cards to the officers it was investigating as it was investigating them. While other cities and counties were accepting this interpretation as an unfortunate new reality and an impediment to the truth-finding process, Ryan convinced his team and his client to challenge it. They ultimately elevated the issue to an appellate court here in Northern California. And after a two-year battle, they prevailed! They clarified that investigators are entitled to control their evidence as long as an investigation is ongoing, which continues to benefit not only our city and our CPRA, but cities and counties throughout California.

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